See

The camera may be my favorite invention ever. Having the ability to capture what I see in front of me and share it with others is revolutionary. As a mom and adventure-junkie, my photos are my most treasured material possession! I never have to worry about forgetting those smiling faces, panoramic views, and milestone moments.

But no matter how good my high-tech DSLR or the latest-greatest smartphone cameras claim to be, the images always seem to fall short. Whether it’s inaccurate coloring, distorted faces, or warped perspectives, I’m always disappointed – because what my eyes saw was so much better! And even if it looks spectacular on my screen, it may look totally lame on yours 😕

SEE-02

In John 3, a Pharisee named Nicodemus “came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.'” (v. 1-2) While most Pharisees would have publicly criticized Jesus during the day, Nicodemus’ curiosity led him to have a private discussion with Him at night. And he began the conversation by letting Jesus know what he had seen – signs and wonders that were out of this world.

But “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.'” (v. 3)

To the Pharisees, the “kingdom of God” (His present, active influence and rule on this earth) was seen through physical eyes – it was measured in capture-able acts of outward obedience to laws and regulations. Jesus’ signs seemed (at least to Nicodemus) to be visible evidence of more of God’s work. But Jesus wanted him to know that what he saw with his physical eyes was nothing compared to what he would perceive if he looked through the eyes of belief. Though Nicodemus thought he was seeing God’s work, it turned out he was only viewing snapshots of it!

As physical humans living in a physical world, we put a lot of stake in the things we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. If we experience something in one or more of these ways, it becomes real to us. When it comes to spiritual things, we long for those senses to be our evidence of God’s presence – if we can see, hear, taste, smell, or touch, then we can believe He’s real and really working!

But, as Jesus informed Nicodemus, the opposite is true – we don’t believe because we see, we see because we believe. Belief doesn’t happen as a result of evidence, the evidence is only visible as a result of the belief. Though we may see apparent glimpses of a spiritual world, the only way we can truly perceive God’s work is if we are “born of water and the Spirit” (v. 5). Your sin, in its self-interest and resulting shame, must be washed away so it no longer blurs your lens and distorts your view, and the Spirit of God Himself must then renew and regenerate you with His presence – giving you new eyes to truly see.

This summer our family had the incredible opportunity of viewing the solar eclipse from inside the path of totality. As we prepared for the event, I readied my cameras and studied up on how to best capture the moment – there were so many people who couldn’t be there and I wanted them to be able to experience it, too!

The moment was spectacular, but I’m sorry to report that I don’t have much to share. I tried using video to record the daytime becoming dark, but my camera automatically adjusted and added backlighting. I couldn’t seem to find the appropriate DSLR settings to represent how eerie the sun’s dimming light was. And I had no telephoto lens to capture the actual event of the moon blocking the sun – which means you’ll just have to experience the next one for yourself in April 2024!

Screenshot_20170821-144745

The Greek word for “see” in John 3:3 means much more than to view with the eyes, it means to “experience” or “to become a partaker of”.* Notice how Jesus first used “see” but then in verse 5 clarified by saying no one could “enter” the kingdom of God unless they were born again. The “snapshots” Nicodemus had seen could never depict the depth and dimension of the Holy Spirit’s uncapture-able (see v. 8) work – it could only be experienced in person!

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve been “born again” because you’ve received and believed the truth about Jesus – that He was God in human flesh, that He gave His life as a sacrifice, and that He rose again to rule His Kingdom in victory. Although many times we think of this “kingdom” merely as our eternal home in Heaven, the “kingdom of God” is something we are given the opportunity to perceive and partake in now.

As author Brennan Manning states, “A fleeting, incomplete glimpse of God’s back – the obscure yet real, penetrating, and transforming experience of His incomparable glory – awakens a dormant trust. Something is afoot in the universe; Someone filled with transcendent brightness, wisdom, ingenuity, and power and goodness is about. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, somewhere deep down a Voice whispers, ‘All is well, and all will be well.'” (“Ruthless Trust” p. 65)

My belief in Jesus determines not only my future in God’s eternal kingdom, but my experience of it today. The visible evidence may be lacking, but if I, in any given moment, acknowledge that He is good, that He is love, that He is present and working, and that He is over and above all things, then I will “see” His Kingdom. It’s not a magic formula, it’s the trust that opens my eyes. This kind of trust sees coincidences as divine appointments, watches and waits for hard hearts to become soft, and crops discouragement right out of the picture. “Jesus moments” are all around us if we have the eyes to see them!

*http://biblehub.com/greek/3708.htm

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Look

One of the perks of our little suburban life is the ability to walk our kids to and from school every day. It’s only two blocks, we get some fresh air, and they learn important skills about things like crossing the street. Over the years we’ve grown from regular reminders of “You must be holding an adult’s hand!” to the “Look both ways!” stage and now all three of our girls are independent and capable street-crossers.

Well, mostly. One of our children, who shall remain nameless, is a lover of all things “rules”. Not only do rules make her feel safe but rules also give her the ability to rule and be in control (which she may have inherited from a parent who shall also remain nameless).

Even last year, at an *upper elementary* age, our safety-conscious girl would not cross the street alone. I remember telling her to “Go!” one day, but she refused to move and kept looking to the right, to the left, to the right, and to the left again. I was telling her this while standing in the middle of the street, so it was obviously safe, but she still wouldn’t cross!

Over the past several months, I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah. This book is filled with God’s words to His chosen people about the corruption of their hearts and the misplaced focus of their eyes. As you read, you’ll notice that the people’s greatest sin was not their obsession with pleasure and self-fulfillment, but rather their constant search for security.

Isaiah details a cycle of God making His wisdom, power, and protection available to His people, but in their perceived vulnerability and need for control over their destiny, they repeatedly looked to other sources of security. They looked to the right toward armies, weapons, rulers, and fortresses. They looked to the left at wealth, land, counselors, and fortune-tellers. And they turned those things into (abstract and concrete) idols*.

Isaiah 30:15-16 summarizes it well:

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
     “In returning and rest you shall be saved;
     in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling, and you said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”

Vulnerability gives rise to fear and when we assume control, fear leads to panic. When we see ourselves as the end all, we see no other option but to look to the right and to the left (and to the right and to the left, and to the right and to the left) for some assurance of safety.

But as the prophet points out in Isaiah 26:3:
“You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.”

Last week, Tim, Anna, and I were on our way home after dropping Amelia off. Since Amelia rode her scooter to school that day, Tim – yes, I said Tim – was riding it home (he lives for this stuff 😉) and Anna was following him, riding her bike.

One of the roads we use on our way home from school has much less traffic, so Anna is allowed to ride her bike in the street – as long as she pays attention to any cars that might be coming or pulling out of driveways.

At one point, after hearing the revving of a starting engine, she stopped and pulled over to the side. Tim, knowing the car was not going to pull out anytime soon, zoomed (well, as fast as you can “zoom” on a child’s scooter) past her. Without hesitation, Anna pulled right out and began to follow him down the street.

It’s easy to think you’re “trusting” God when a situation feels secure – when, with your own two eyes, you’ve looked right and left and found what you believe to be assurance. But trust is taking the step that’s in front of you, not because the situation is secure, but because your confidence in the One leading you is.

Just this morning I had to make a choice that put my overly-sensitive self in a potential danger zone. (Why do I write these words when I know I’m going to have to live them?!?) As I stood at the crossing, I started looking to the right and the left – I began sorting through my feelings, common sense, culture’s social etiquette, and the latest “self-help” advice for something secure. There were plenty of easy ways out, but when I realized what I was doing, I threw them down, looked ahead, and followed Jesus straight across the road.

There’s no guarantee that it’s going to end well. There’s no guarantee I’m not going to get (or at least feel) hurt. Every step I take to follow Jesus may only lead to more uncertainty and His protection may not look like what I want it to look like but “perfect peace” can’t be found in any other direction!

*See Isaiah 2:6-22

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Exposed

Our travels this summer included one day in New Hampshire’s White Mountains – and when the Desilets only have one day in a place, you can bet we’re gonna make it count!

After a scenic drive on the Kancamagus Highway and lunch on the banks of the Swift River, we headed out on the “Boulder Loop Trail”. Tim had done his research and if you know our family, you know adventure doesn’t get much better than a forest full of giant climb-able rocks!

We made quick work of the first several boulders on the trail, but soon arrived at one that “boulder” couldn’t justly describe – it was more like a rock mountain plunged into the middle of the trail. Although the trail turned to the right, we couldn’t resist (who needs the trail anyway?) and up we went.

And up was right! This was a steep climb and the challenge was thrilling – but there were moments when we (okay, I) second-guessed our decision to allow our children (okay, myself) to go this route.

My worries were quickly forgotten when we stepped out onto a breathtaking open rock face overlooking the mountains and valley below. In just a few minutes of hiking, we had gained some serious elevation!

But as we stood there enjoying the view, a rumble of thunder turned our peace into panic. We knew storms were possible that day, but we didn’t know when, and standing there, exposed, on the open rock face of a mountain didn’t seem a like place we wanted to be!

We began looking for a way down, but it seemed we were surrounded by cliffs on every side. Sure, we could have gone back down the way we came, but it was steep, and besides, who does that? Thankfully, we did find a way down and were very grateful when we got back to the safety of our car!

I bet it was thrilling to be a disciple of Jesus. Twelve ordinary guys who, up to that point, had lived ordinary lives now traveled around as a sort of ‘celebrity support crew’. There were no limos, fancy hotels, or gourmet meals, but they were living the high life as eyewitnesses to God Himself showing His glory on earth!

But Mark 8:31 marks a pivotal change in their experience, as Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” These words surely made them uneasy. No one wants to hear that suffering, rejection, and death are going to be in their future, even if that suffering, rejection, and death are going to happen to someone else and you have to witness it!

Then, instead of easing the blow, Jesus added to it by saying, “‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.'” (Mark 8:34-35) It was bad news to hear that Jesus was going to suffer – but now things were getting personal. This was not what they signed up for as a celebrity support team!

A few days later, Jesus took three of those disciples – Peter, James, and John – up a mountain, where they were given an out-of-this-world glimpse of God’s glory in the face of Jesus. Mark records that “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.” (Mark 9:3-4) Any lingering doubts the three of them may have had about Jesus being the Son of God were in this moment erased.

And then Peter – in classic Peter open-mouth-insert-foot style (I think that’s why he’s my favorite) said to Jesus, “‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'” (Mark 9:5) From Peter’s perspective, this seemed like a good place to dwell – to stop and stay for a while. With all that potential suffering, rejection, and death in their future, this place seemed safe.

John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” That word “dwelling” means Jesus stopped and stayed for a while – He put up His “tent” with us.* In Peter’s eyes, that “tent” needed to stay here and be his safe place. But what Peter didn’t know is what we know now – that because of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, His Spirit now “lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17) This word “lives” means to “stay” or “remain”.** If you’ve believed in Christ, He has become a moving-with-you refuge. Your ‘safe place’ now goes with you wherever you go!

Life – specifically life as a follower of Jesus – has a way of leaving you feeling exposed. Pain and suffering of any kind (especially the kind that comes with rejection) brings out our weaknesses and character flaws, leaving them bared before the world. It happened to Peter (Mark 14:66-72) and it happens to us, too.

It’s in this exposure that the heart’s true place of security is revealed. When a ‘tent’ I’ve been running to for safety ceases to exist, I’m reminded that the Spirit of God living in me is my only true refuge.

And even though I know this to be true, it boggles my mind that I don’t run to Him in the moments I need Him most. I wish I could “get it” – I wish I could snap my fingers and make Him my number-one go-to, but as author Brennan Manning states in his book, Ruthless Trust, “This kind of trust is acquired only gradually and most often through a series of crises and trials.” Every ounce of exposure we experience strips us of our man-made ‘shelters’ and deepens our dependence on Him alone.

I’m so thankful God has chosen to make His residence not in a geographic location, but with our moving selves. He’s a constant “shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4) and even when we aren’t aware of His protection, it’s still there. Feeling exposed is scary, but you are always in your safe place!

*http://biblehub.com/greek/4637.htm
**http://biblehub.com/greek/3306.htm

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Location

It was a sunny, warm, Easter Sunday in southern Vermont and adventure was calling our name. There was no better time to check out a trail we’d never hiked before!

After Googling and mapping our route, we set off from Little Michigan Road and headed up the hill with enthusiasm – what a grand thing to be playing in snow piles while wearing t-shirts!

About an hour in, though, with the enthusiasm level quickly fading, it was clear our family was not up for the challenge of completing the intended loop. The increase in whining signaled the alarm to get back to the car pronto, but the usual dilemma was raised. You see, we Desilets have this thing – we never go back the way we came. I mean, what’s the point of seeing everything you just saw again?

“The creek is in that direction,” Tim suggested, “so if we bushwhack down this hill we’ll shortcut to the other end of the loop.” Concerned, I pulled out my phone to check the accuracy of this claim. (What would we do without Google Maps?) “Yep,” I replied, “as long as we head in that direction, we should be good.”

It’s important to note here that Vermont has a fifth season. It’s called “mud season” and it falls somewhere between winter and spring. As all that mountain snow melts, the water level in creeks and rivers rises and unpaved roads and paths can become impassable.

And what Google Maps could not show us was that between us and our destination was a giant mud-season generated swamp!

After a miserably failed it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time attempt to cross this swamp, our even more whiny (and now cold and wet) crew wound through several groves of dense pine trees (in our t-shirts – Ouch!), and finally arrived at the other side.

Having a relationship with Jesus seems like it should be a well-marked path. Thousands – even millions – of people have done this before you, leaving their example. You look at the lives of believers you know and they seem to make it look easy – as if you should just be able to point your GPS in God’s direction, take a few steps and you’ll be there!

But like the Vermont woods, a relationship with Jesus is not drawn on two-dimensional map. There are no predictable, paved paths and everyone’s journey looks at least a little bit different. Unexpected twists and turns, miles of bushwhacking, and, of course, the occasional swamp can leave us wondering where we’re “at” and what may lie ahead.

In John 1:45-46, after being ‘found’ by Jesus (v. 43):

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

Nathanael didn’t know Jesus (and obviously had some preconceived notions about Him), but Jesus did know Nathanael:

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (v. 47-49)

Step inside this story for a moment and picture yourself in a crowded place. At some point, you’re introduced to this guy and he’s like “Oh yeah! I saw you a little while ago over by that tree!” Would you be impressed? Not really. You might think he had a some memory skills, but you certainly wouldn’t call him God in human flesh.

But when Nathanael heard Jesus say “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree,” he reacted by declaring, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” And that’s because Jesus didn’t just “see” Nathanael, He saw Nathanael. He saw whatever was going on in Nathanael’s head and heart at that moment.

Something significant was happening in Nathanael’s life under that fig tree. Maybe he was desperate and crying out to God for help. Maybe he was doubting. Maybe he was sinning. Whatever it was, it was something only God could know and Jesus in His fully-God self knew it, too.

No matter where Nathanael was “at,” Jesus knew his location. He knew exactly where Nathanael was at in his faith, his circumstances, his heart, and his mind. He knew what Nathanael had been through to get to that point – and He knew all that lay on the path ahead of him.

No matter where you’re “at,” Jesus knows your location. He knows everything you believe (or aren’t sure you believe), every doubt, every fear, every joy, every stress, every circumstance and how it’s affecting you. He sees you under your fig tree and He’s reaching out His hand to say, “Get up! Follow Me!”

A few weeks after Spring Break, our family was on another hike (this time on our home turf in PA) when we, yet again, decided to take another path that we thought would be a ‘better’ way back to our car. It wasn’t, of course, and after some backtracking and random-trail-guessing, we found the trail we were looking for – or so we hoped.

Concerned again, I referred to my handy dandy Google Maps app to make sure we were at least headed in the right direction. I was surprised to find that according to the map, we were lost in the middle of the forest!

But where we were standing was clearly a path!

Your GPS on your own life may not be as accurate as you think. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Our own hearts have the ability to deceive us on the condition of our own hearts! We are stuck in a two-dimensional map – while the world around us feeds us regular, just as off base, information on our location.

Only God knows where you’re “at”. He’s the only one who can view all the dimensions and pinpoint your exact location. You may think you’re miles from home, but maybe that fig tree you’re under is right where He is going to do a mighty work in your life. Or maybe you think you’re on the perfect path, but that pile of snow you’re standing on is about to turn into a foot-deep puddle of mud.

The only way to know is to ask the One who does know to “Search me, God, and know my heart”. (Psalm 139:23) If you’re like me, you spend enough time evaluating your soul, but not enough time asking God what He has to say about it. He knows where you’re at, so be still and listen!

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